Jay Jaffe over at Pinstriped Bible recently took a look at the Yankees’ bullpen and liked what he saw:
Add it all up and the Yankee bullpen now has the AL’s lowest ERA at 3.08, its second-best strikeout rate at 8.1 per nine (the Red Sox are .0024 behind them in that department), and its fourth-best strikeout-to-unintentional walk ratio at 2.6. Furthermore, the bullpen has allowed just 23.9 percent of inherited runners to score, the league’s second-best mark, and they’ve taken the loss a league-low 10 times, for whatever that’s worth. The Yankees are 59-6 (.908) when leading after six innings, 2.5 wins better than the average AL team under such circumstances.
So despite the loss of Soriano for an extended spell and Joba Chamberlain for the remainder of the season, despite the annoying presence of Hamburger Helper in the form of Amauri Sanit, Buddy Carlyle, Sergio Mitre, and Lance Pendleton, the Yankees have once again emerged with a quality relief corps. We can quibble with the tactical tics that have earned Girardi his “Coffee Joe” moniker, we can holler about the choice of personnel in the 10th inning of Sunday night’s loss, we can make stale jokes about his binder. Still, the Yankee skipper has once again shown a knack for finding order in the chaos of his bullpen; it has become one of his signature traits, and it’s a big reason why this team enjoy a seven-game cushion in the Wild Card race while trailing the Red Sox by just a game in the AL East. The Yankees are positioned to waltz into the postseason, and there’s no sense in overlooking that silver lining despite a tough series loss.
Jay’s evaluation of Girardi holds up to further scrutiny. Let’s take a look at where they have ranked in some of the more important statistics during Girardi’s tenure (remember that these numbers are not adjusted for ballpark or quality of competition):
IS% (inherited runners scored): T-1st
ERA: 3rd in AL
Just as a point of comparison, here is how the Yankee bullpen looked in the 1-year and 3-year periods prior to Girardi taking over:
The Yankees are right up there with the White Sox and Athletics for the best bullpen in baseball since Girardi took the helm in New York. Considering the ballpark and competition discrepancies between the Yankees and A’s, it is fair to say that the Yankees have had one of the two best bullpens in baseball over the last 3+ seasons, which is a credit to both Brian Cashman for (finally) finding the right pieces and Joe Girardi for assembling them into an effective relief corps. As Jay noted in his article, Girardi tends to be able to sift through the trash that often inhabits the back of Major League bullpens to find the players who can give him effective innings for some period of time. While he does have some clear flaws and may make some puzzling in-game decisions, handling the bullpen over the course of a season is clearly one of Girardi’s strengths.
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